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To help brands adapt to today's ever-changing landscape, Braze brought together more than 50 thought leaders, senior executives, innovative marketers, and customer engagement experts at our annual Forge conference in order to dig into the customer engagement environment ahead of us and how companies can prepare.

In today’s challenging, fast-changing business landscape, many of yesterday’s customer engagement nice-to-haves have increasingly become essential to the survival and long-term success of modern brands. For companies that have dragged their feet when it comes to embracing digital- and mobile-first experiences and leveraging real-time, personalized, cross-channel communication, time is running out to complete that transformation. But knowing that you need to reimagine your marketing efforts isn’t the same as having the data, technologies, and strategy needed to complete that transition successfully.

To help brands make that leap, Braze brought together more than 50 thought leaders, senior executives, innovative marketers, and customer engagement experts at our annual Forge conference in order to dig into the customer engagement environment ahead of us and how companies can prepare. Across more than two dozen sessions, innovators at brands like Delivery Hero, HappyFresh, HBO Max, IBM, and Wine.com, shared insights on how to break through organizational silos and deliver outstanding business results by putting the customer first.

With an event this big, there’s always too many interesting conversations and striking presentations to cover them all, so let’s take a minute for a quick run-through of the conference’s three major themes, and the key sessions that brought them to life:

Suite Symphony: How Brands Are Maximizing Their Impact With Cross-Channel Engagement

“When bringing together multiple instruments—or engagement channels—it's possible to build a symphony, but only if everyone is playing from the same music sheet,” says Sunny Manivannan, VP, Product Marketing, at Braze. “And in marketing, that means extreme coordination across the marketing ecosystem, data sources, and team structures. Only then can brands successfully engage, retain, and build long-term customer relationships.”

At its core, effective customer engagement is all about coordination. Brands that embrace the need to create a “suite symphony” with their technology ecosystem are well-positioned to manage and coordinate a range of campaigns and experiences for their customers, supporting the kinds of relevant, meaningful brand interactions that today’s consumer craves. And leading streaming service HBO Max is living out that promise by leveraging Braze to build a best-in-class customer onboarding experience that leverages a responsive, cross-channel approach to build stronger customer relationships.

During an exclusive conversation with Business Insider’s Ashley Rodriguez, Christine Miller, Director of Campaign Management at HBO Max, walked attendees through the creation and iteration associated with her service’s welcome messaging flow. The welcome flow uses push notifications, email, and other messages that are personalized and triggered based on individual user behaviors to drive 3,000% higher subscription rates than a one-size-fits-all onboarding approach.

When it comes to leveraging the power of Braze to orchestrate a suite symphony of customer engagement, things didn’t stop there. Venmo’s Marissa Dunn walked us through the ways this innovative payments provider is using Braze to drive additional revenue; Grindr’s Alex Black and Chen Zhou showcased the dating app’s unprecedented digital Pride celebration, all built and personalized using Braze Content Cards; and Quizlet’s Maddie Groves showed us how her company uses Braze to support in-message quizzes and other interactivity, as well as cross-channel campaigns that provide a cohesive experience every step of the way.

Break Boundaries: Embracing New Teams, New Processes, and New Technologies

“In the exciting world of B2C marketing,” Manivannan explains, “the only constant is change—especially true this year. It's no surprise that the brands that have the greatest success are those that are able to break free from (and evolve beyond) what's always been done and work towards what can, and should, be done.

Innovation has always been at the core of the technology industry, but we’re seeing it become increasingly essential to successful marketing programs. Doing the same old thing in a shifting market is a recipe for disaster, but breaking the mold is often much easier said than done. That’s why Braze has been hard at work building new features and updating existing ones to ensure that brands have the tools they need to ensure that their customer experiences keep moving onward and upward.

During Forge 2020’s Braze product keynote, Braze Cofounder and CTO Jon Hyman, and Braze SVP of Product, Kevin Wang, walked attendees through key new innovations and initiatives designed to help brands overcome the boundaries—from geographic distance to organizational and data silos—that are keeping them from creating relevant, cohesive cross-channel experiences. From allowing Braze customers to host and process Braze data on Microsoft Azure and leverage our expanded integration with leading CDP Tealium to the launch of a new SDK allowing brands to gather and act on user data within games built using Unreal Engine, we’re leveling the playing field and making it easier than ever before for companies to understand their audience in nuanced ways...and then take effective action.

And the evolution of Braze doesn’t stop there. Hyman and Wang also previewed some key new capabilities that are being built into the Braze platform, including:

  • A new integration with digital commerce platform Shopify
  • Support for in-app message survey templates
  • The launch of a Braze block email editor
  • The introduction of a Braze global holdout group

When it comes to the power of Braze, you don’t have to take our word for it. Attendees got an in-depth look at how leading banking and financial services brand CIBC is using Braze to serve up messaging experiences that provide cohesive, value-add experiences for every customers and learned how APAC grocery delivery platform HappyFresh took advantage of Braze cross-channel capabilities to communicate effectively with customers during the early days of COVID-19.

(Real) Time is Money: Seeing the True Business Value of Customer Engagement

“Time is money, so the saying goes,” Manivannan tells us. “But we know for both customers and the brands that want to best engage them, real time is money. As we've written about, the difference between milliseconds and hours—or truly real-time marketing versus out-of-date customer engagement—can make a massive difference.”

In our mobile-first era, consumers wait for no brand. The value of the customer data you collect has a half-life, and if you’re not using that data in the moment to support better, smarter, more timely customer experiences, you’re running the risk of falling behind. Thankfully, there’s a better way. And at this year’s conference, we were lucky enough to hear from forward-looking brands like IBM and GetYourGuide on how they’re using data to support responsive experiences—and reaping the benefits.

During Forge’s “Let’s Talk About Retention” session, moderator Sharon Harris, the global CMO at Jellyfish, talked with IBM’s Neetika Bhargava and Get Your Guide’s Krzysztof Szymanski about the tools and tactics their brands are leveraging to deepen customer engagement and drive revenue in the COVID era. Szymanski showcased GetYourGuide’s “The World at Home” campaign, which used Braze-powered real-time personalization and cross-channel capabilities to delight homebound would-be travelers and buck the travel industry’s declining digital engagement levels, even at the height of the pandemic. Bhargava showcased how enterprise brands can embrace personalization and user behavior-triggered campaigns, highlighting a nurture campaign that used timely, behavior-triggered messages to boost recipients’ milestone completion rate by more than 90%.

But wait, there’s more! We also heard Kaythaya Maw, the APAC CTO for Wunderman, dig into how brands can avoid common digital transformation deal breakers and got a masterclass in effective teamwork during our remote-work era from Delivery Hero’s Olga Rodriguez-Trujillo, Matt Dyson, and Catherine Bostian.

Final Thoughts

This year’s Forge has come and gone, but it’s not too late to take advantage of all the essential thought leadership and key best practices that came with it. To explore all things Forge 2020, visit forge.braze.com between now and October 20 and watch the entire event—or a few choice sessions—on demand.

Todd Grennan

Todd Grennan is a New York-based writer and editor. When he's not writing about mobile marketing, customer retention and emerging technologies for Braze, you can find him trying to read his way through every Wikipedia article related to World War II.